It shouldn't shock you that, in our age of technology and junk food, teens are in worse shape than ever.
The typical teen now spends nearly 30 hours a week in front of the TV, eating high-fat snacks. Researchers have found that as our teens sit and watch television, their metabolism slows down to a crawl, even slower than if they were doing nothing at all! South Carolina is in the top seven states with the highest proportion of overweight or obese children. According to the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center, South Carolina also leads the nation in percentage of children (54.5 percent) who do not participate in after-school sports or extracurricular activities.
Thankfully, there's still a chance to get them off the couch, away from the Playstation and into an exercise routine. The American Heart Association is now recommending that teens raise their heart rate for 20 minutes, nonstop, three or more times each week.
It's important that our young adults know that they have opportunities to be active, not only through sports. Teens will be more active when they find activities that they enjoy, though it may not always be the activity the parents enjoy. Parents need to be open to the idea of their children not necessarily following in their footsteps.
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Local recreation agencies have wrapped up their fall athletic seasons and winter sports are underway. If your children are not participating in organized athletics, there are still ways to motivate them to be active. Running and walking are simple, low-cost exercises that give teens a perfect chance to talk with friends, relieve stress and leave them feeling energized. Planning a weekly family physical activity, such as hiking or biking, is an additional cheap way to keep your teen active.
Taking your young teen to the gym is also an option for physical activity. In Fort Mill, the Leroy Springs Recreation Complex is now offering free Yoga for teens on Mondays from 4:30 until 5:15 p.m.
"Yoga is a great activity for teens. Parents often overlook the stresses of being a teenager. Yoga helps teens develop a healthy body image and builds self-esteem. Yoga also teaches self-awareness. It's all about mindfulness. These qualities help teens make better choices," says Melanie Deal of Real Deal Yoga, offered at the Complex.
A strength and conditioning class has also been added to the schedule for teens at the Complex. The class meets on Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 until 5:15 p.m. with the goal of teaching young teens the proper form and techniques related to weight lifting.
Additional personal training, sports conditioning and weight loss classes, specifically for teens, are also being offered at the Complex by personal trainer Tim Stuckey of TPS Fitness.
The YMCA in Fort Mill offers Youth Sports Conditioning for $69/month ($49/month for members.) Classes are led by John Adams.
Exercise should never hurt, although a little soreness can be expected, especially in the initial weeks of a workout program. Make sure that your teen knows the proper way to warm-up and stretch. Finally, keep in mind that the old adage of, "no pain, no gain," has been replaced. Teens are now encouraged to find fun physical activities that they will enjoy over the long haul.
• Andy Stahr, CSCS, is the fitness director for the Leroy Springs Recreation Complex. He can be reached at 547-1062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.